Don’t you think it is incongruous to accuse a writer of “arrogance” or being “egotistical” about a fiction he has written? Of course he knows that he knows his book better than you ever will. And what on earth is a book of fiction but the supreme creation of ego? Aren’t you far wrong to expect it to be otherwise?
Yet I hear these two words uttered as accusations!
There are few things a craftsman can be arrogant about and one of these is the work of his hands. Expect no prevarication from me on what I have done, I am confident about it, confident enough to give it to you to test and appraise it. In giving it to you, you get the right to appraise, you get a universal lease on it. But never forget that you are entering my world, not the other way around.
I am thinking about cliquey minded collectives and how interesting that, for purposes of psychology alone of course, a certain sort of artist cannot find validation in how well they pour themselves into their work. A lot of Nigeria’s young artists, in writing especially, posses talent but are lacking in authenticity, yet authenticity is what endures, for it is not a thing to be considered to be acknowledged by a fellow artist or a consumer of art. It is de-facto and in your face. It is not the same thing as talent, which merely produces some sort of original work.
Authenticity is what is there beneath the words, as potent as a slap or the hiss of a rattlesnake. It is the sense, for want of a better word, that gives a moral core to an artist. A moral core has nothing to do with morality. Cliquey minded collectives may produce original work, in literature and even art, but never authentic work. For the artists themselves are defective.
But then, there have been some for whom the lesser rung, mere originality or even less than this, is enough. To these unfortunates I say the salaam of politeness only.
“I think gender probably plays a bigger role in how critics read than in how writers write.”
– Chimamanda Adichie.
Very perceptive opinion here, I’d go to say the same of ethnicity and religion. Writers are less concerned about these in themselves when they write than are their critics. One just writes and leaves the curious sociology of one’s words to others frankly less competent that we who create.
This inability to stand away from one’s biases is an indictment of second-rate criticism, and to flaunt one’s biases is the hallmark of the worst sort of philistinism there is. Sadly, both these are prevalent critical posturings. The writer must accept the possibility of meeting with these as yet another burden; which is why the text must be the child of the finest labour of love its creator can manage.
Richard Ali, author of City of Memories, [Parresia, 2012], was just announced as the Africa Book Club “Author of the Week”. Read brief interview HERE. #share #tweet #reblog
Special thanks to the Africa Book Club.